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You’ve been doing all the “right” things:

You’ve established an appropriate caloric deficit.

You focus on filling your plate with lean proteins and veggies for each meal.

You moderate your carbs, choosing things like fruits, whole grains, rice and pasta and your fats, choosing things like nuts, nut butters, avocados, olive oil and the like all in accordance to your goals.

On days you lift, you add in some additional carbs in your pre and post workout meals.

The majority of your food choices come from fresh, whole, non-processed products and sources that you love the taste of.

You maintain some semblance of balance and allow yourself wiggle room for items that you enjoy that, at one point, you may have thought as as “unhealthy”. Things like chocolate, candy, ice cream, breads, sodas and sweets.

You know that no foods are restricted or off-limits and that there’s a difference between limiting your foods and eliminating them entirely. You understand that no foods are inherently “bad” and nothing - including your nutrition - is going to be perfect.

But…. things aren’t going the way you expected them to. You’re still not seeing results.

It’s quite possible that you’re taking in a lot more calories than you think you are.

In fact, this is usually the case when someone is sure that they are doing everything right, “but it’s still not working!” If your goal is fat loss and you’re wondering why you’re not making as much progress as you had hoped, check to see if any of these might be part of the reason.

1. What you put in your coffee/tea

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Any coffee fiends out there? This could be your biggest culprit. Whether or not you are adding cream, milk, sugar, honey, half & half, or whatever else, a “splash” and a  "pinch" add up, especially if you are ordering anything bigger than a small. That’s not even including drinks with sugar syrups, whipped cream and the like. Not paying attention to your coffee and tea add ons could run you anywhere from 50-500 additional daily calories, perhaps more if you’re chugging multiple cups every day.

What to do instead:

  • If you’re tracking your macronutrients, include everything you’re putting in to your coffee and tea. Even if you’re not specifically measuring your food, I still recommend that you do this for about a week at least. Grab a teaspoon or tablespoon and see just how much you’ve been adding to your daily cuppa joe.
  • Invest in better quality coffee and appreciate the (brewing) process. As with a lot of things, the better the quality is, the less you usually need. Many times people will find that they are more satisfied with less coffee prepared really well, versus copious amounts of poor coffee. You can get as fancy as you’d like (and as your budget allows), but there’s a world of difference between savoring an expertly prepared cup of coffee and drinking stuff that resembles lukewarm dirty dishwater. Lately I’ve been buying wallet friendly products by Peets and Trader Joe’s. I use this grinder and I often use a Chemex for brewing.
  • Decrease the amounts you’re adding in (two teaspoons instead of three, for example, or three sugar packets instead of four) over time. This doesn’t need to be something you do cold turkey, wean yourself slowly.
  • Check to see if your flavored coffee uses syrups to achieve the desired flavoring (which, for one pump could tack on anywhere from 80-100 cals) or, if the beans have been pre-flavored or infused with spices/blends (usually calorie free)
  • Swap out higher cal add-ins for lower cal ones. 2%, skim milk or almond milk instead of whole milk, fat free half and half or cream instead of whole cream, sweeteners like Stevia instead of sugar.
  • If it’s the caffeine boost you’re after, try herbal, green or chai teas that you wouldn’t necessarily add any milk or sugar too. Teavana’s Dosha Chai is my current fav.
  • Decrease the size and/or amount of coffee you’re consuming each day. This one might be the trickiest one of all. But if the idea of completely changing up your order is too scary to fathom, than you could try drinking one less coffee or tea a day, or, try ordering a medium instead of a large or a medium instead of a small.

2. Taste testing while cooking

A big advantage of not cooking is that you avoid the cumulative nature of all of those BLT’s (bites, licks & tastes) you might take while making large batches or trying out new recipes. But for those that do, how often are you trying a spoonful here, or a small (okay, big) taste while you’re cooking? BLT’s add up FAST and we often don’t even recognize it because we’re not treating them as meals or snacks.

What to do instead:

  • Ask yourself if you’re truly tasting the food in order to check up on your cooking skills. Many times people find that they end up mindlessly munching and “taste tasting” simply because the food is in front of them.
  • Just like going food shopping when you’re hungry is ill-advised, if you can, try not to cook or bake when you’re ravenous in order to lessen the chance that your quick turns into a huge bite (or two, or three).
  • Curb temptation by staying hydrated while you’re in the kitchen with a large glass of water or keep your mouth busy by chewing gum
  • Track it. When it comes to calories, everything that goes into your mouth counts. Taste tests that are more than about a tablespoon should be included in your macronutrient allotment.

3. Trying or taking bites off of other’s plates

Yep, more BLTs. For parents especially, one of the biggest culprits of stalled fat loss is taking bites of or finishing food left on your kids’ plates.

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What to do instead: 

  • Don’t feel guilty about leaving food on your (or your kids’ plates). If the thought of wasting food drives you nuts, package it up in Tupperware or a to-go container for later.
  • Be mindful of the amount of your bites. The same strategies for taste testing apply here. Everything you put into your mouth counts.

4. Cooking oils/butters

We often only think about what we’re putting ON our food and not what we’re cooking our food IN.

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If you are cooking a lot of your own meals, a tablespoon (or two or three) of oil or butter seems to quickly disappear into each dish. Couple this with meals you might be eating in restaurants or at families and friend’s homes and that could easily add anywhere from 200-600 calories throughout the day.

What to do instead:

  • If you’re tracking your macronutrients, make sure you’re accounting for all the cooking oils and butters you are using. It might open your eyes as to where you might be able to decrease the amount you’re using. For sauteing and grilling, I like those zero-calorie sprays (they come in a variety of kinds) for this reason.
  • For restaurants, track the best you can (if that’s something you’re doing), enjoy the food and move on. Restaurant meals are usually always higher in calories due to the amount of cooking oils, butters and other fats. If you’re eating out very frequently, this might be something you’ll need to take a closer look at. One strategy for times you know you will be dining out is to keep the fat content of your other meals throughout the day lower than usual in order to balance out your restaurant choices.

5. Hard candies, breath mints & cough drops

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A few here and there aren’t going to break the bank, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re popping them constantly or swiping one or two every time you walk by a bowl. Two butterscotch candies can be 70+ calories, four lifesavers or three peppermints equals 60 cals and four cough drops will run you about 50 calories, depending on the brand.

What to do instead:

  • If you’ve become a candy bowl frequent flier, swap the hard stuff for sugar-free gum. It still has calories, yes, so demolishing a pack or two per day might not be the best idea. But if 1-2 pieces keeps your mouth busy and helps you hold off on grabbing several pieces of candy, it could certainly save you calories in the long run.
  • Avoid the office candy bowl! Limit the amount of times you expose yourself to it by taking a different route to the bathroom or down the hall.

6. Salad add ons

HUGE salads are amazing, especially for fat loss. You can have a ton of volume for low(er) calories which makes them perfect for filling you up. Plus, you get the health benefit of cramming a bunch of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) and fiber - all vital for your health and for maintaining proper bodily functions - into one meal. Total win.

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But salad adds-ons like dressings, cheeses, bacon bits, nuts, fruits and croutons can quickly turn a low calorie meal into a high calorie blowout. Just a tablespoon of sunflower seeds will add on about 50 calories, bacon bits about 30 calories per serving and a “sprinkle” of dried cranberries can cost you upwards of 100-150 cals.

What to do instead:

  • You know the drill.. track everything!
  • Pick your battles. Love toppings more than dressings? Choose lower calorie dressings. Prefer a lot of dressing? Add fewer toppings.
  • Using different fat sources ( like cheese, avocado, and bacon) often eliminates the need for dressing. Two more-bang-for-your-buck options are Laughing Cow cheese wedges and grated cheeses. This  cheese and spice blend is also really yummy.

7. Nuts/Nut Butters

With smaller serving sizes and the fact that they are extremely caloric dense (more calories for less volume), it’s really easy to overeat these without realizing it and without feeling full. Same goes for trail mixes and candied or glazed nuts.

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What to do instead:

  • Grab a tablespoon or a measuring cup to gain an accurate serving amount and get tracking.
  • Buy single serve packs. Most nuts, trail mixes and nut butters come in single serve packets now- use them to your advantage if you have a tough time limiting the amount you’re eating or a hard time eyeballing measurements.

8. Juices & sodas

Your glass of OJ in the morning and two soda a day habit could be a major reason as to why you’re not seeing results. Drinking high calorie juices and sodas are an easy way to “spend” your calories.  These are often categorized as “empty calories” - you’re usually not getting a nutritional or health benefit that’s worth the amount of calories you’re consuming. More importantly, in regards to fat loss, just one glass of either could be 100-200 calories which, throughout the course of a week, could severely negatively impact the caloric deficit you are trying to produce.

What to do instead:

  • Cut down on your juice and soda consumption overall and account for the ones you do drink
  • Switch from regular soda to diet soda or swap out soda altogether for selzters (regular or flavored)
  • Find reduced sugar, sugar-free or other low calorie juice options
  • Swap out juices for flavored, infused or enhanced no-calorie waters
  • Are you actually just thirsty? When the temptation to pour a tall glass of juice or to grab a soda hits, try drinking 1-2 glasses of water first and see if the temptation remains.

9. Treating fruits & veggies as a free for all

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Just eat healthy! Just eat clean! Load up on fruits and vegetables and watch the pounds melt away! 

We’ve all heard things like this and, while adding more fruits and veggies into your diet unquestionably has numerous health benefits, these benefits come with calories attached. There is no such thing as calorie free or negative calorie foods.

Fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of carbohydrates and while they are typically a low(er) calorie choice per serving, it’s important to remember that dependent on the type and amount, they still add up! For example, a medium apple and a cup of grapes will run you about 100 calories each and most vegetables will tack on roughly 30 calories per cup.

Many nutrition coaches who offer guidance with tracking macronutrients, treat vegetables as a “free food”, meaning you can eat as many as you’d like without needing to count them towards your overload caloric intake. For people who struggle to consume any amount of vegetables due to taste preferences, having a “free” 1-3 cups of veggies might propel them to actually eat them! And, like most of the things on this list, an extra 30 calories or so isn’t going to completely derail your progress but LOTS of extra calories will.

Often times people following a “clean” eating diet without accounting for the amount of food that they’re eating will run into this problem.

What to instead:

  • Track your fruit and veggie intake, especially if you haven’t been and you feel as if your fat loss has stalled

10. Condiments, Sauces & Syrups

Ketchup on your eggs in the morning? 15-30 calories. Mayo in your sandwich at lunch? 90-180 calories. BBQ sauce on your steak dinner? Anywhere from 30-100 calories. Without even being overly generous, you’ve just added an easy 300 calories to your day.

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Think of how many foods you eat with added condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish) sauces (BBQ, soy, peanut, Hollandaise, demi glaze, tartar, etc.) or syrups (maple, agave nectars, fruit, chocolate, butterscotch, etc).

What to do instead:

  • Account for the amounts you’re using. A good general constraint to put on yourself could be to track any condiment or sauce that is more than 10 calories per serving.
  • If you prefer using a lot of these, try lower calorie, sugar-free, fat-free or reduced fat options
  • Pick low cal choices like salsas and tabasco sauces
  • To decrease the amount you might be tempted to use, buy single serve packets or containers
  • Know that you will never be able to get an accurate measurement of exactly how much a restaurant is putting on or in your meal. Control what you can control (order sauces and condiments on the side if possible to dip or add onto your food yourself) and track the best you can.

So remember…

  • When it comes to changing your body’s physique - especially through fat loss - everything that you put into your mouth counts towards your overall caloric intake.
  • No food or calories are inherently bad for you. There are no specific foods that will cause more fat gain or loss than another food. With fat loss, the dosage (amount) of the food you eat matters more than the type of food you eat.
  • One of the best ways to begin assessing how much food you are eating throughout the day is to begin tracking & measuring the amount of food. Don’t rely solely on eyeballing portion sizes until you have gained more experience in doing so.